CAIRO — Mustafa al-Waziri, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), recently revealed the discovery of new stone ram heads during excavation work on the Avenue of Sphinxes (also known as el-Kebash Road).
In a Facebook post on Oct. 7, Waziri posted photos of the newly found stone ram heads and other stone statues.
“The archaeological mission operating in el-Assasif area on the western mainland in the Luxor governorate found three ram heads. The mission continues its excavation work in the area as part of the project to restore el-Kebash Road, which is expected to open in the coming weeks,” Waziri told Al-Monitor.
One of the heads he said, belongs to King Amenhotep III, "as the ram head contains the horn, the eye and the hole in which the cobra is placed.” Amenhotep III’s crown had holes for the snake.
“The ram heads are expected to be placed on the bodies of the statues along the road,” he noted.
In a Facebook statement on Oct. 11, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced “the start of restoration work on the newly found stone ram heads on the Great Processional Way [another name for el-Kebash Road], as part of the archaeological excavations ongoing south of the Karnak temples at the gate of Ptolemy III Euergetes.”
The 3,000-year-old Great Processional Way (el-Kebash Road) connects the Luxor Temple with the Karnak Temple. The sandstone road is lined on both sides with statues in the form of a sphinx with the head of a ram.
“El-Kebash Road is an open museum that connects the Karnak and Luxor temples, stretching over 2.7 kilometers,” Waziri told Al-Monitor. “98% of the works are done” on restoring the road. “The cleaning and restoration of the temples on the site are currently being carried out. So far, the colors that were first used after the construction of the temples by ancient Egyptians have been restored.”
The opening ceremony, he said, will be "a historical event to highlight the beauty, charm, and history of Luxor, and its tourist and archaeological potentials to the world, with the aim of attracting tourists from all over the world.”
On Oct. 8, the daily Egyptian news website Youm7 published recent photos of el-Kebash Road at nighttime, explaining that light equipment has been installed on both sides of the road. Meanwhile, videos of rehearsals for the opening ceremony made the rounds on social media.
Mustafa al-Saghir, who is overseeing el-Kebash Road project, praised the development projects and urban shift in the areas surrounding archaeological sites, which helps improve the tourist experience. “The el-Kebash Road restoration project will contribute to reviving cultural and archaeological tourism in Luxor,” Saghir told Al-Monitor.
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has not yet announced a final date for the opening of el-Kebash Road. But according to local newspapers that quoted government sources, the opening ceremony will take place on Nov. 4 during a large pharaonic celebration in the presence of foreign ambassadors and Egyptian officials and will be broadcast live by local and international media outlets.
On Sept. 29, Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled al-Anani met with the company in charge of the opening ceremony and with the archaeological committee in charge of the restoration project. During the meeting, he displayed a series of rare photos from the 19th century showing the history of the Karnak and Luxor temples, and the road connecting the two. The photos will be a part of the exhibition in specific spots along the road.
Abdel Rahim Rihan, an Egyptian archaeologist, told Al-Monitor, “The discovery of the new stone ram heads in the excavation area in Luxor is another advertisement for one of Egypt’s largest projects in Luxor.”
The ram was a symbol of the god Amun Ra, Rihan said, and "Some of the statues along the road show Amun Ra crouched on a high base, with the body of a lion and the head of a ram. The name of the king and his titles are engraved at the bottom of the statue [for protection].”
The opening ceremony, Rihan said, should be “a major unprecedented celebration along el-Kebash Road, as well as the Opet Festival, which was an ancient celebration that was held annually in the city of Thebes.”
Hussein Abdel Basir, an Egyptologist and director of the Museum of Antiquities of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, told Al-Monitor that the discovery of the new stone rams “adds more importance to el-Kebash Road’s opening ceremony” and can attract more tourists to Luxor.
He expects “the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to organize a huge event, similar to the procession of the royal mummies from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the National Museum of Civilization.”